28 October 2011

The litigious branch of the family

My great great grandfather Thomas Macindoe (born 15 Oct 1841, Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland, died 8 May 1901, Ashfield, NSW, Australia) died a very wealthy man. His deceased estate papers state that he was a "Gentleman", and he owned 12 properties with the value of his estate amounting to £4746.

As far as I know, my living family did not really know how he came by such a fortune, and probably we all assumed that he was a just Scot who was very canny with his money. Certainly the Macindoe family had enough money to pay their way out to Australia, arriving as Unassisted Immigrants on the Liguria in 1884 - which wouldn't have been a tiny expense, considering the family consisted of Thomas, his wife Ellen, and their eight children. Yesterday I discovered, looking through historical newspapers, that within months of arriving in Australia he had set himself up as a house and land agent based in Petersham, and so a job like that certainly would have helped him come by quite so many properties. According to one advertisement he placed he was quite experienced in this profession:

"PETERSHAM - THOMAS MACINDOE (late of Glasgow, 19 years an extensive House and Property Agent), opposite Railway Station, Petersham, has every facility for selling of Houses and Land, and Letting of Houses. Instructions to dispose of Property will receive prompt and personal attention." Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 1885.

After he died Thomas Macindoe's will and two codicils caused a lot of problems amongst his family. He had originally chosen his wife Ellen and four of his sons (W. W. Macindoe, Thomas Macindoe jnr, Stewart Macindoe and Norman Macindoe) as executors, but in a second codicil dated 2 Apr 1901 he revoked the appointment of W. W. and Thomas jnr. It probably didn't help the situation that he lent Stewart £250 (of which he paid back £95) and Norman £110 and then, according to them, released them from the remainder of their debts, due to "the natural love and affection" of their father. In the end the family took sides and everyone, apart from the two daughters, went to court - not to contest the will, mind you, just the appointment of the executors. In the end a settlement was reached, for the plaintiffs (Ellen, Stewart and Norman), and the court costs were to be paid out of the estate. The judge for the matter then noted that "he hoped this would be the commencement of more cordial relations between the members of the family". The most ridiculous thing about the court case was that the court costs sucked most of the money out of the estate, leaving not much left over.

Thomas Macindoe's will gave provisions for up to £100 to be spent on the publishing of a "death bed message". No evidence has ever been found that the message was published, so one must assume that the court case frittered away the money so that there was not enough left to publish it. Which is incredibly annoying because I'd love to know what that mysterious death bed message was!

The court case was all written up in the papers, and apparently later at least some of the family expressed regret that they had dragged the family name through the mud. However, some of them didn't learn, particularly Thomas Macindoe jnr, who went to court with his estranged wife over the amount of maintenance he was paying her, and then his sons went to court over a punch up and slander - one complained the other slandered him when he told a doctor that he was subnormal and should have mental treatment. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

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